|Family fun: Even children enjoy the food tour thanks to friendly tour guides. — VNS Photos
by Le Huong
Hoi An and Da Nang have not only wooed tourists with their breath-taking landscape, fresh sea and friendly people, but the localities are a special attraction for their food.
Cashing in on the secret, a company is promoting local delicacies to offer unique tours to both Vietnamese and foreigners.
Tourism website TripAdvisor has ranked Hoi An among 25 destinations with the best food in the world. The Hoian Food Tour is among the most trustworthy tours that foreigners have chosen.
"Before setting up the food tour, we run the Hoi An Free Tour to take customers throughout the old quarter by bicycles," Nguyen Thi Van, a manager assistant at Hoi An Food Tour recalls.
"During the free tour, most of tourists raised the same question, ‘What and where should we eat in Hoi An?'
"Earlier, we would often take them to local food shops, where there were no tourists, and they liked the food a lot," he said.
Most of them would be curious about the food shops filled with many locals, but did not know what kind of food was on offer and were not sure about food hygiene.
Van and Phan Hoang Yen, the owner of the company who is now residing in Singapore, has spent a lot of time choosing the dishes and introducing the food shops.
|Local grub: Tourists have the chance to taste local delicacies.
"The dishes would be local delicacies, suitable to many people's tastes and the shops would be clean. The shop owners are friendly and warm-hearted and the shops should be popular to locals," she said.
"The way to the shops pass some sightseeing spots and the shops charge reasonable prices," she said.
During the one-month trial step, the company invited 37 tourists from various countries like Australia, South Korea, the US and the UK to offer their comments.
The motorcycle food tour was officially launched in 2013 and really impressed many tourists.
"The perfect way to experience local Vietnamese food and culture," Harper from Abu Dhabi on Trip Advisor website commented. "We ate food we never would have known about in places we would never have found."
Catherine from Sydney recalled, "We booked the tour before we left as one of us is a chef, so we were very interested in food. We were excited about doing it but it was even better than we expected! Not only did we get to try out wonderful, authentic Vietnamese food that we would never have known about, but we had our delightful and helpful guide Lucy take us to parts of Hoi An only trodden by the locals so it is a fabulous way to get the true feeling of this lovely little town..."
The company has 20 guides, with five of them working full time. All of them speak fluent English while three of them can speak Chinese and one speaks South Korean.
Tourists can try cooking local food or listen to various tales on Hoi An Old Quarter told by warm-hearted shop owners.
Each month, the company also hosts a charity cooking show for more than 100 elders at Hoi An Social Protection Centre. The expense is paid for by the proceeds of the tour with each tourist contributing US$2.
Ha Linh, a tour guide from the company, said she had a difficult time with a family with two children aged 4 and 8. The parents were very excited about the tour while the children kept crying and asking their parents to go home. They stayed in the city for just two days and booked only the food tour.
Linh did not want to disappoint the couple and tried to make friends with the children. She tied the girl's hair and played hide and seek with the boy. They were much happier and joined the tour.
"The next day, the couple called me and said the children missed me a lot and asked whether I want to go to Australia to work as their baby sitter," Linh recalled.
Guide Kim Hong recalled an evening walking on a food tour with a big family of nine. The tour included a dinner with a local family. While eating, the guests looked at a big amplifier and loudspeaker on the wall. When the host explained that the set is used for karaoke singing, the guests were quite curious about karaoke. They then sang and danced together till 9pm.
"There are many other companies offering food tours by bikes and bicycles in Hoi An, but a food tour by motorcycle is our special product as it requires special effort," Van said.
"On a motorcycle food tour, one guide takes a tourist. The guide should both speak fluent English and understand the local culture. The product is our best-selling tour."
Food tour in Da Nang
The company offers the same food tour in Da Nang City by car.
The tour takes tourists to various attractions of Da Nang like a cafe at the heart of the city, Marble Mountains, several Buddhist sanctuaries stone sculpture making and stone-cutting crafts, and Thuan Phuoc bridge, in addition to the Linh Ung pagoda, and Bai Da, which is situated along the coast of Son Tra peninsula.
After lunch at Bai Da, tourists visit a local market to know more about the local life in the city.
During the tour, tourists have the opportunity to try some famous local food such as bun cha ca (vermicelli with fish cake), grilled cakes, and banh mi (local bread).
Each month the company receives around ten groups, each comprising four and eight people.
"We have a lot of competitors, who are foreign investors, Vietnamese overseas and locals," Van said. "Yet, we are confident of offering the best service with the best guides." — VNS